Chilean scientists take strides to combat colon cancer deaths

Chile is home to some of Latin America’s leading universities with groundbreaking studies in molecular biology, metabolomics, and nano-biotechnology.


Chilean professors and students are making big strides in cancer research with the help of a high-tech machine at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM) in Valparaíso. Investigators hope they are on track toward unlocking the secret for earlier detection of colon cancer, the prevalence of which has doubled in the last three decades.

The lead investigator at the UTFSM Biotechnology Center, Hugo Peña-Cortés, explained that the cutting-edge field of metabolomics “is used to analyze diseases, comparing healthy and sick individuals,” and studying the difference between the exact chemical structure of certain biological fluids.

With the help of the Max-Planck society in Germany and the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo), UTFSM is now home to a highly-specialized metabolomic machine, unique to Chile and one of only two in South America. With the right equipment and a growing team of specialists, the team hopes to create a bank of samples from 3,000 patients within 12 months, which it will study for distinctive chemical signals.

“The ways we detect colon cancer today are very crude… by the time it happens, eight or 10 years have already passed with an intestinal polyp or wart. Maybe this polyp has a distinct signal that we can detect and we don’t have to wait for it to become a tumor,” Francisco López, Chief of the Coloproctology Unit at the Clínica Las Condes, told La Tercera.

In similar news, Chilean scientist Dr. Fernando Danilo González Nilo at the Universidad de Talca recently announced his discoveries in the field of nano-biotechnology, which may have groundbreaking implications for cancer research, including earlier detection for breast cancer victims and less-invasive chemotherapy for cancer patients.